John Madden, the Hall of Fame coach turned broadcaster whose exuberant calls combined with simple explanations provided a weekly soundtrack to NFL games for three decades, died Tuesday morning, the NFL said. He was 85.
The league said he died unexpectedly and did not detail a cause.
Madden gained fame in a decade-long stint as the coach of the renegade Oakland Raiders, making it to seven AFC title games and winning the Super Bowl following the 1976 season. He compiled a 103-32-7 regular-season record, and his .759 winning percentage is the best among NFL coaches with more than 100 games.
But it was his work after prematurely retiring as coach at age 42 that made Madden truly a household name. He educated a football nation with his use of the telestrator on broadcasts; entertained millions with his interjections of "Boom!" and "Doink!" throughout games. He was an omnipresent pitchman selling restaurants, hardware stores and beer,became the face of "Madden NFL Football," one of the most successful sports video games of all-time,and was a best-selling author.
Most of all, he was the preeminent television sports analyst for most of his three decades calling games, winning an unprecedented 16 Emmy Awards for outstanding sports analyst/personality, and covering 11 Super Bowls for four networks from 1979-2009.
'Always been a coach'
"People always ask, are you a coach or a broadcaster or a video game guy?" he said when was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. "I'm a coach, always been a coach."
He started his broadcasting career at CBS after leaving coaching in great part because of his fear of flying. He and Pat Summerall became the network's top announcing duo. Madden then helped give Fox credibility as a major network when he moved there in 1994, and went on to call prime-time games at ABC and NBC before retiring following Pittsburgh's thrilling 27-23 win over Arizona in the 2009 Super Bowl.
"I am not aware of anyone who has made a more meaningful impact on the National Football League than John Madden, and I know of no one who loved the game more," Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said in a statement.
Burly and a little unkempt, Madden earned a place in America's heart with a likable, unpretentious style that was refreshing in a sports world of spiraling salaries and prima donna stars. He rode from game to game in his own bus because he suffered from claustrophobia and had stopped flying. For a time, Madden gave out a "turducken" — a chicken stuffed inside a duck stuffed inside a turkey — to the outstanding player in the Thanksgiving game that he called.
"Nobody loved football more than Coach. He was football," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. "He was an incredible sounding board to me and so many others. There will never be another John Madden, and we will forever be indebted to him for all he did to make football and the NFL what it is today."
Praise from peers following broadcasting career
When he finally retired from the broadcast booth, leaving NBC's "Sunday Night Football," colleagues universally praised Madden's passion for the sport, his preparation, and his ability to explain an often-complicated game in down-to-earth terms.
Al Michaels, Madden's broadcast partner for seven years on ABC and NBC, said working with him "was like hitting the lottery."
"He was so much more than just football — a keen observer of everything around him and a man who could carry on a smart conversation about hundreds and hundreds of topics. The term 'Renaissance Man'is tossed around a little too loosely these days, but John was as close as you can come," Michaels said.
For anyone who heard Madden exclaim "Boom!" while breaking down a play, his love of the game was obvious.
"For me, TV is really an extension of coaching," Madden wrote in "Hey, Wait a Minute! (I Wrote a Book!)."
"My knowledge of football has come from coaching. And on TV, all I'm trying to do is pass on some of that knowledge to viewers."
NFL Announces the Passing of John Madden: <a href="https://t.co/1Ai58xq8oP">https://t.co/1Ai58xq8oP</a> <a href="https://t.co/2avH6lS3nO">pic.twitter.com/2avH6lS3nO</a>—@NFL345
Madden was raised in Daly City, Calif. He played on both the offensive and defensive lines for Cal Poly in 1957-58 and earned his bachelor's and master's degrees from the school.
Madden was chosen to the all-conference team and was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles, but a knee injury ended his hopes of a pro playing career. Instead, Madden got into coaching, first at Hancock Junior College and then as defensive coordinator at San Diego State.
Coaching stintwith Raiders, Super Bowl run
Al Davis brought him to the Raiders as a linebackers coach in 1967, and Oakland went to the Super Bowl in his first year in the pros. He replaced John Rauch as head coach after the 1968 season at age 32, beginning a remarkable 10-year run.
With his demonstrative demeanor on the sideline and disheveled look, Madden was the ideal coach for the collection of castoffs and misfits that made up those Raiders teams.
"Sometimes guys were disciplinarians in things that didn't make any difference. I was a disciplinarian in jumping offsides; I hated that," Madden once said. "Being in bad position and missing tackles, those things. I wasn't, `Your hair has to be combed."'
The Raiders responded.
"I always thought his strong suit was his style of coaching," quarterback Ken Stabler once said. "John just had a great knack for letting us be what we wanted to be, on the field and off the field. ... How do you repay him for being that way? You win for him."
And boy, did they ever. For many years, the only problem was the playoffs.
Madden went 12-1-1 in his first season, losing the AFL title game 17-7 to Kansas City. That pattern repeated itself during his tenure; the Raiders won the division title in seven of his first eight seasons, but went 1-6 in conference title games during that span.
Still, Madden's Raiders played in some of the sport's most memorable games of the 1970s, games that helped change rules in the NFL. There was the "Holy Roller" in 1978, when Stabler purposely fumbled forward before being sacked on the final play. The ball rolled and was batted to the end zone before Dave Casper recovered it for the winning touchdown against San Diego.
The most famous of those games went against the Raiders in the 1972 playoffs at Pittsburgh. With the Raiders leading 7-6 and 22 seconds left, the Steelers had a fourth-and-10 from their 40. Terry Bradshaw's desperation pass deflected off either Oakland's Jack Tatum or Pittsburgh's Frenchy Fuqua to Franco Harris, who caught it at his shoe tops and ran in for a TD.
In those days, a pass that bounced off an offensive player directly to a teammate was illegal, and the debate continues to this day over which player it hit. The catch, of course, was dubbed the "Immaculate Reception."
A coaching legend. A broadcasting icon. Beloved by football fans everywhere.<br><br>Remembering John Madden. <a href="https://t.co/6jbIl1kdZq">pic.twitter.com/6jbIl1kdZq</a>—@NFL
Oakland finally broke through with a loaded team in 1976 that had Stabler at quarterback; Fred Biletnikoff and Cliff Branch at receiver; tight end Dave Casper; Hall of Fame offensive linemen Gene Upshaw and Art Shell; and a defence that included Willie Brown, Ted Hendricks, Tatum, John Matuszak, Otis Sistrunk and George Atkinson.
The Raiders went 13-1, losing only a blowout at New England in Week 4. They paid the Patriots back with a 24-21 win in their first playoff game and got over the AFC title game hump with a 24-7 win over the hated Steelers, who were crippled by injuries.
Oakland won it all with a 32-14 Super Bowl romp against Minnesota.
"Players loved playing for him," Shell said. "He made it fun for us in camp and fun for us in the regular season. All he asked is that we be on time and play like hell when it was time to play."
Madden battled an ulcer the following season, when the Raiders once again lost in the AFC title game. He retired from coaching at age 42 after a 9-7 season in 1978.
Madden was a longtime resident of Pleasanton, California, a Bay Area suburb. A 90-minute documentary on his coaching and broadcasting career, All Madden,debuted on Fox on Christmas Day. The film featured extensive interviews that Madden sat for this year. His wife, Virginia, and sons Joseph and Michael were also interviewed for the documentary.
John and Virginia Madden's 62nd wedding anniversary was two days before his death.
Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, former NFL coach and current NFL Network analyst Steve Mariucci, Washington Commanders head coach Ron Rivera and Madden's son, Mike, were among the myriad speakers who paid tribute in a celebration of Madden's life -- One More Monday Night in Oakland: A Celebration of John ...What was John Madden famous for? ›
John Madden, in full John Earl Madden, (born April 10, 1936, Austin, Minnesota, U.S.—died December 28, 2021), American gridiron football coach and television commentator who was one of the best-known personalities in National Football League (NFL) history.What happened to coach John Madden? ›
He died at his home in Pleasanton, Calif., his agent, Sandy Montag, said. In his irrepressible way, and with his distinctive voice, Madden left an imprint on the sport on par with titans like George Halas, Paul Brown and his coaching idol, Vince Lombardi.Who broke Madden's curse? ›
In the 2021/2022 season, Kansas City broke the curse with Mahomes leading the Chiefs to a 31-20 victory at the Super Bowl.Was John Madden involved in a plane crash? ›
Madden was coaching at the nearby Allan Hancock Junior College at the time of the crash and knew many passengers aboard the aircraft. As a result of the crash, Cal Poly did not play any road games outside California until 1969, a 14–0 loss at Montana in Missoula.Did John Madden get royalties Madden? ›
In 2005, Madden reportedly signed a $150 million deal with the gaming company that would allow his "name and likeness" to be used indefinitely — even after his passing. He is also entitled to annual royalties in compensation, which are estimated to be in the millions.How much was John Madden worth at his death? ›
John Madden was worth $200 million in 2021 when he died, according to Celebrity Net Worth. He was the first broadcaster to earn a $1 million salary, and was also one of the first entertainers to earn more than$1 million per year through celebrity endorsements, the website stated.Who was the best NFL coach ever? ›
Don Shula has won more games than any other head coach in NFL history. The Hall of Famer spent the first seven years of his head coaching career with the Baltimore Colts and led the team to a Super Bowl III appearance in the 1968 season.Why did John Madden ride a bus? ›
Madden transitioned from his Hall of Fame coaching career into what became an iconic broadcasting career and decided he no longer wanted to fly. He opted to travel long distances by train until it became inconvenient and decided a bus would be the perfect alternative.Did John Madden have a driver for his bus? ›
Greyhound then agreed to an endorsement deal with Madden in 1987 that included a personal driver and all expenses for the bus. John Madden moved from traveling by train to by bus for the 1987 NFL season.
A 21st-round draft pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in 1958 (the 244th selection overall), Madden was with the NFL club for one season before a knee injury halted his professional career. He never played in a regular season game with the Eagles.Who was John Madden's favorite NFL player? ›
If there was one Packer, in particular, Madden loved more than city, team, and stadium, it was Brett Favre. If Madden and broadcast partner Pat Summerall were calling your team's game, it was a big deal.Who is John Madden's best friend? ›
Sandy Montag, Madden's agent and the man Madden called his best friend, said that iconic Raiders coach turned broadcasting legend couldn't help it.What was John Madden's favorite saying? ›
'Always have class, and be humble': Some of the late John Madden's most memorable quotes.Who was the first victim of the Madden Curse? ›
Starting this list with the first victim of the Madden curse is running back Garrison Hearst who played for the San Francisco 49ers. What earned him his cover was the fact that he had set several franchise records in 1998 along with one of the longest rushes in his team's opening game that year against the Jets.Did John Madden have a health condition? ›
The American football player who later became a coach and sports commentator in the National Football League, had multiple joint diseases and stomach ulcers while he lived. In 2015, he underwent open-heart surgery to repair blockages before passing away years later.When was the last time John Madden flew in a plane? ›
Madden was able to fly during his coaching career, which spanned 1969 through 1978, but his fear became too much once he became a broadcaster. He last flew in 1979.Who was the announcer with John Madden? ›
The Fox Network's $1.58 billion bid that wrested National Football Conference games away from CBS for the next four seasons shocked John Madden and Pat Summerall, CBS's top football announcing team.Who voices Madden announcers? ›
The main commentators responsible for breaking down the action in Madden 23 are Charles Davis and Brandon Gaudin. The two have been working together in the Madden franchise since Madden 17 when they replaced Phil Simms and Jim Nantz in the booth.Who owns Madden's funeral? ›
Isiaa Madden – Manages the Dovecot operations in Montego Bay. Despite the challenges which face the business environment in Jamaica, and in particular the funeral business, the company continues to build on its reputation as one of the first, and still the leader in final care services.
If there was one Packer, in particular, Madden loved more than city, team, and stadium, it was Brett Favre. If Madden and broadcast partner Pat Summerall were calling your team's game, it was a big deal.Who is the most famous football announcer? ›
1. John Facenda: Known as the “Voice of God,” he voiced over the greatest of the NFL Films productions. And we do mean voice – his was unmistakable. While he was a news anchor on Philadelphia TV from 1948 to 1973, he will forever be associated with the NFL.Who is the most famous football commentator? ›
Jim Beglin is one of the most reputed commentators around. Unlike most other names on our list, Jim Beglin has primarily served as a co-commentator, which makes his inclusion all the more impressive. Beglin has worked alongside the likes of Jon Champion and Peter Drury, enriching the leads with his tokens of wisdom.Who was John Madden's best friend? ›
Sandy Montag, Madden's agent and the man Madden called his best friend, said that iconic Raiders coach turned broadcasting legend couldn't help it.Who is the best NFL commentator? ›
Jim Nantz. Arguably the premier sports play-by-play announcer currently in the business. Nantz is the lead man for college basketball, golf, and the NFL on CBS. Since 2004, Nantz has been the No.Who was John Madden's cause of death? ›
Madden died of undisclosed causes at his home in Pleasanton, California, on December 28, 2021, at the age of 85.Did John Madden drive his own bus? ›
Greyhound then agreed to an endorsement deal with Madden in 1987 that included a personal driver and all expenses for the bus. John Madden moved from traveling by train to by bus for the 1987 NFL season.Who is the greatest Madden player of all time? ›
Who is the best player in Madden 22? In Madden 22, there are five players in the “99 Club,” a group of players who carry a perfect 99 overall rating in the game. These players are Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Donald, Travis Kelce, Jalen Ramsey, and Myles Garrett.Did John Madden ever play an NFL football game? ›
A 21st-round draft pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in 1958 (the 244th selection overall), Madden was with the NFL club for one season before a knee injury halted his professional career. He never played in a regular season game with the Eagles.Who is best quarterback ever? ›
1. Dan Marino: 1984. Marino's 5,084 yards that season was 282 more yards than the second-highest total in league history at that time. His 48 touchdown throws that year was 16 more than the next-highest total in league annals.